Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ISS with new solar panels & full power capacity

Thanks to the crew of the recent Space Shuttle Discovery Mission, STS-119:


Space Shuttle Mission: STS-119
Space shuttle Discovery and its crew of seven safely touched down on runway 15 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:14 p.m. EDT on Saturday, March 28. The weather cooperated enough to allow the spacecraft to land on the second opportunity.

Mission Specialist Sandra Magnus also returned to Earth with the STS-119 crew. Magnus spent 129 days aboard the International Space Station as flight engineer for Expedition 18. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata took her place on the orbiting laboratory and will return to Earth with the STS-127 crew.

The 13-day mission included three spacewalks, about 6-hours a piece, to install the S6 truss and enormous starboard-side solar arrays. They also unfurled the arrays and performed other get-ahead tasks.

Mission STS-119's crew of seven completed a successful mission aboard the International Space Station -- increasing the orbiting laboratory's power capacity and giving it the ability to accommodate additional crew members in the future.

Up till now, the ISS could only accommodate three permanent crew members. Two of those members have a full time job running the station, leaving only one to conduct experiments. Now they will be able to have six full-time crew members, and be able to really start using those space labs for research.

Follow this link to see the photo gallery for mission STS-119.
     

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Monday, March 30, 2009

President Obama's fake Town Hall meeting

It seems the questioners were preselected plants:

STACKING THE DECK
Do you remember that town hall meeting PrezBO held in the East Room of the White House last week? Now the Washington Post is reporting that perhaps all was not as it seemed at that meeting ... especially insofar as the questioners who were actually there.

The Post is reporting that there were five questioners in the East Room who were fully identified. All of them turned out to be Obama plants. They were there to ask a question designed to allow Obama to deliver the message he wanted to deliver. The Post provides the following information:

Questioner 1 was Sergio Salmeron: Self-description at the White House: "My name is Sergio Salmeron. I want to find out about health care."

It turns out that Salmeron worked with the Obama campaign since early 2008. His blog was "my.barackobama.com. He did volunteer canvassing for the campaign as well as voter registration work. He was also a campaign translator.

Questioner 2 was Tom Sawner: Self-description: "Sir, I'm Tom Sawner. I'm a service-disabled veteran, small-business owner in Arlington, Virginia. My company, Educational Options, works with public schools."

He was more than a disabled veteran. He was also an adviser on Obama's education platform committee.

Questioner 3 was Carlos Del Toro: Self-description: "My name is Carlos Del Toro. I served in the Navy for 26 years, retired four years ago, and started a small business."
Del Toro was also a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates last year. He endorsed Obama in an op-ed in the Fredricksburg (Virginia) Free Lance-Star.

Questioner number 4 was 4. Linda Bock: "My name is Linda Bock and I'm a registered nurse just in Prince George's County, Maryland -- been there 34 years at a free senior health center. And I'm here with my fellow nurses from SEIU."

Bock campaigned and canvassed for Obama during the election.

Then there was No. 5: 5. Bonnee L. Breese: "Hi, Mr. President. Thank you so very much for having me, a public school teacher from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, here to be with you.

Simply another Obama supporter. A teacher's union member, by the way.

There was another questioner but they only got her first name, "Elle." The White House won't reveal her surname.

So ... every questioner at the town hall ... at least the questions from the people who were there ... were from pre-selected Obama supporters. No big deal, folks .. but let's not forget that Obama likes to stage his press conferences; and apparently his town hall meetings as well.

Totally staged. How fake can you get? It's hardly surprising though, since it happened throughout his campaign as well, and was hardly ever reported in the MSM, just like it isn't being reported by them now.

A Republican could never get away with this. Democrats get a pass, though. I've often heard Leftists say that they don't care what the politicians on their side do, as long as they are Politically Correct. Here is proof that it's true.

How long are the majority of the American people going to keep swallowing this BS? We have almost four full years of this horse and pony show ahead of us, so I guess we shall see.
     

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

A National Health Care Preview, and a lesson from Natasha Richardson's experience

I had posted about Mitt Romney's health care plan for Massachusetts years ago. Some folks warned me that it was doomed to fail, and it seems that is the case. It seems that these sorts of things have been tried before, and the results are always the same:

National Health Preview: The Massachusetts debacle, coming soon to your neighborhood.
Praise Mitt Romney. Three years ago, the former Massachusetts Governor had the inadvertent good sense to create the "universal" health-care program that the White House and Congress now want to inflict on the entire country. It is proving to be instructive, as Mr. Romney's foresight previews what President Obama, Max Baucus, Ted Kennedy and Pete Stark are cooking up for everyone else.

In Massachusetts's latest crisis, Governor Deval Patrick and his Democratic colleagues are starting to move down the path that government health plans always follow when spending collides with reality -- i.e., price controls. As costs continue to rise, the inevitable results are coverage restrictions and waiting periods. It was only a matter of time.

They're trying to manage the huge costs of the subsidized middle-class insurance program that is gradually swallowing the state budget. The program provides low- or no-cost coverage to about 165,000 residents, or three-fifths of the newly insured, and is budgeted at $880 million for 2010, a 7.3% single-year increase that is likely to be optimistic. The state's overall costs on health programs have increased by 42% (!) since 2006. [...]

The article goes on to look at the usual ways governments use to attempt to fix these problems... and the flaws inherent in them. The article also claims that if this plan is applied on a national level, the results will be even worse, because MA had a far smaller percentage of its population uninsured than the national average.

Yet we are now about to adopt this plan on a National level?

Our current health care system would work better if some government controls were removed, such as the silly laws that forbid people from buying health care across state lines. Such as not taxing health insurance that people (like me!) buy for themselves.

If government is to have a roll in improving our health care system, they need to allow us more choices, not less. They need to stop over-burdening the present system with needless restrictions, and let competition lower prices. And our politicians definitely need to learn from the many mistakes of others who have gone before them. Many of them don't seem to have a good record of learning from mistakes. Hopefully the voters will.


There is a great deal to be learned from other National Health Care systems. Natasha Richardson's experience in Canada is a good example:

CANADACARE MAY HAVE KILLED NATASHA
COULD actress Natasha Richardson's tragic death have been prevented if her skiing accident had occurred in America rather than Canada?

Canadian health care de-emphasizes widespread dissemination of technology like CT scanners and quick access to specialists like neurosurgeons. While all the facts of Richardson's medical care haven't been released, enough is known to pose questions with profound implications.

Richardson died of an epidural hematoma -- a bleeding artery between the skull and brain that compresses and ultimately causes fatal brain damage via pressure buildup. With prompt diagnosis by CT scan, and surgery to drain the blood, most patients survive.

Could Richardson have received this care? Where it happened in Canada, no. In many US resorts, yes. [...]

Read the whole thing. It's not hard to see why CanadaCare failed her. In fact, look at this example of a little girl in the US, with a very similar injury to Natasha's:

Natasha's lesson helps save Ohio girl
[...] The McCrackens took Morgan to the emergency room at LakeWest Hospital in neighboring Willoughby, where doctors ordered a CT scan and immediately put Morgan on a helicopter to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, with her father by her side.

"I knew it was bad when she had to get there by helicopter in six minutes, instead of the 30 minutes it would have taken to get to Cleveland in an ambulance," McCracken said.

When the helicopter arrived at Rainbow, the McCrackens were greeted by Dr. Alan Cohen, the hospital's chief of pediatric neurosurgery. He whisked Morgan into the operating room, pausing for a moment to tell McCracken that his daughter had the same injury as Richardson: an epidural hematoma.

McCracken remembers standing in the emergency room, feeling like the life had just been sucked out of him. "My heart sank," he says. "It just sank."

Unlike Richardson's, Morgan's story has a happy ending. [...]

It was a happy ending for Morgan because of quick action and ample availability of treatment and equipment. The very thing's that did not work out in Natasha's favor under CanadaCare.

There IS a reason why so many Canadian's come to the USA for medical treatment. They don't want to die waiting for treatment in Canada.

I'm sure that there are plenty of things we can do to improve our health care system in the United States, to make it more affordable and accessible. But policies that have a proven track record of failure should not be among them. We have to create better ways.


Related Links:

Health Insurance and Medical Expenses

Lowering Health Care Costs for Everyone

PRIVATE HEALTHCARE ... SAY IT AIN'T SO!

There's No Place Like Home: What I learned from my wife's month in the British medical system.
     

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Has Orwell's "1984" been superseded by "1985", a voluntarily accepted "Soft Totalitarianism"?

Pat did a post recently called 1985. He was quoting an article in the British Spectator about voluntary Orwellianism, where it's not forced on people but voluntarily embraced by them. Creepy.

This article at the Brussel's Journal had a similar theme, and in part, examines how voluntary Orwellianism works:

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Political Correctness, and Soft Totalitarianism
[...] Bradbury, a man of letters, grasped with admirable certitude the fundamental relation of literacy and literature to the civilized order. The written word functions impersonally and abstractly: it mediates non-resentful relations between individuals and helps the individual to understand whether the institutions of his society are fulfilling or distorting their mission. The written word supports objectivity, criticism, and analysis: it enlarges and depends awareness and thus supports the civic order of the modern republics, as they came to be at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Literacy is a presupposition of the free circulation of values in the modern market. The spoken word, on the other hand, is, as it has been immemorially, personal, agonistic, and emotional. The theoreticians of orality and literacy associate the spoken word with primitive society, with tribalism, and with shame-culture – or frankly with the crudity of political propaganda. In a modern context, as Bradbury sees it, any lapse from cultivated literacy in a critical, cue-giving nucleus of the educated population represents a lapse from civilization, a deterioration of the social scene, and an instance of decline towards new savagery.

Big-screen, high-definition television sets therefore do not a civilization make, either in our actual world or Bradbury’s prophetic representation of it from fifty years ago. Conformity, on the other hand, television is good at establishing, and along with conformity all the bullying totems the taboos that hedge in thought and discussion and so disarm the society from taking critical stock of itself or judging the leadership or its policies rationally. The dictatorship of Fahrenheit 451 is a confidently self-regulating one that insures its continuity through the methodic inculcation of regressive taboos and infantile totems that render people no longer capable of examining or doubting what the state tells them. Our own political correctness is a system of regressive taboos and infantile totems that bludgeons people, by state-reinforced priggishness, into self-betraying cowardice and insipidity. With its readiness to denounce by hurling epithets, pandemic intolerance maintains obedience as effectively as a police force with automatic weapons. The fear and envy of small people who compensate for their feelings of inferiority by banding together are what drive and sustain dictatorial conformism. The state seizes on that fear and that envy and harnesses them cynically to its own schemes to secure and increase its power. The elites are driven as much by fear and envy as the masses; they enjoy leveling things out, which is for them a supremely moral experience, but they are more culpable than the masses because they know what they are destroying.

In this way the society in Fahrenheit 451 strikes one as more plausible today than its Orwellian alternative or indeed as having already been partially (and more than partially) realized in Europe and North America. Political correctness, whether it is in Bradbury’s imagined dictatorship or in our own therapeutic nanny state, permeates the society through the channels of commercial mediation that the state has co-opted. [...]

I think this goes a long way in explaining how "1985" Orwellianism becomes voluntarily accepted; as people become less literate, less imaginative, and more passive and more image-oriented, critical thinking suffers.

The whole article is rather long, and offers many more observations, including how Bradbury's book itself has had to be protected from the politically correct, dumbing-down process the very novel itself describes. Yikes.

Here is an example of the Soft Totalitarian principle in action at UMass:

Hecklers Ruin Free Speech Talk

The Big Brother enforcers, doing Big Brother's job, voluntarily. Welcome to the New and Improved Orwellian "1985".

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France to rejoin NATO militarily

It seems French President Sarkozy wants France’s full “reintegration” into the military command structure of NATO, after an absence of more than 40 years:

France in NATO: Why It Matters
[...] Indeed, Sarkozy’s main argument for rejoining NATO is that, given its current level of engagement, France must have a voice at the top in order to defend its own interests. In recent years, France has gradually rejoined the political and operational elements of the Alliance; it now sits on 36 of NATO’s 38 committees. But it has remained absent from the permanent military command structure, which means that it does not participate in the strategic planning that goes into operational deployments. Sarkozy says this must change.

But Sarkozy also has other motives for reaching out to NATO. Full membership of the Alliance will, for example, enhance French military interoperability with the United States and other NATO allies, thereby contributing to the badly needed modernization of French forces. Moreover, Sarkozy hopes that full NATO membership will provide the French defense industry with access to the mammoth US defense procurement market, which accounts for almost half of global defense expenditures.

[...]

Sarkozy has won some important concessions from the United States, one of them being that Washington drop its opposition to ESDP as a quid pro quo for France’s rejoining NATO. At the 45th Munich Security Conference in February, US Vice President Joe Biden declared that America would “warmly welcome” France’s full return to NATO and added that “we also support the further strengthening of European defense” and an “increased role for the European Union in preserving peace and security.”

The Americans have also given in to Sarkozy’s demands for a more prominent French role in the Alliance. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said that France would take over leadership of Allied Command Transformation, a key NATO command post in Norfolk, Virginia, where the alliance’s long-term strategy is discussed. France will also lead the Allied Joint Command Lisbon, which is responsible for NATO’s Rapid Reaction Force and its satellite reconnaissance system.

But France’s return to NATO also has the potential to increase tensions with the United States and other NATO members like Britain. For example, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin says that France rejects a global role for NATO and that the Alliance should remain Eurocentric. He also says that Russia should be consulted before the alliance expands any further. Those positions could put France on a collision course with the White House, which has bigger plans for NATO and has criticized France and Germany for their deference to Russia on questions of European security. [...]

The rest of the article also gives many possible reasons the French may want this, with embedded links. When France achieves a majority Muslim population in 15 years time, it will be interesting to see how the alliance holds up, and what they will do with all the military technology and knowledge they will have gained from us.
     

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Ubuntu: Linux for Human Beings?

That is practically Ubuntu's motto. This article makes an interesting case for Ubuntu, claiming it has the XP-Factor:

Ubuntu: Linux with the XP-Factor
Ubuntu is Linux for normal people. It's the Linux OS with the XP-Factor. Let me explain...

[...]

For most people, Windows XP is their favourite Windows. If asked to express a preference, I'll probably agree, despite the fact I'm an open-source guy. It's a solid and functional operating system.

Somehow Microsoft got everything just right with XP, but it's extremely hard to quantify exactly what. The gut reaction is to say that it's easy to use, but I don't think that's true. [...]

He goes on to describe many of XP's shortcomings. It's hardly perfect. Yet it's probably Microsoft's most popular operating system. Why? Read on:
[...] So how about this for a definition of why XP is so universally admired: It doesn't do anything stunningly well, but with a little effort it will do a wide range of things reasonably well.

Doing things reasonably well is good enough for most of us. It's all we need. We don't require anything else. [...]

Faced by customers clinging to Windows XP, Microsoft has had no choice but to avoid shooting it in the head. It has extended support until 2014 (it should have ended this April), and given manufacturers permission to offer a bizarre option on all computers they sell, whereby they install XP instead of the newer Vista. I'm told this "downgrade" is far more popular than it should be.

But pretty soon XP will be a vague memory to most users. Microsoft may have slipped up with Vista, but you're gonna get Windows 7 whether you like it or not. [...]

I have a solution for your XP woes. Unless you've been lobotomized, you might think you've guessed what it is: Linux. But you would be wrong. I don't generally recommend Linux. I recommend Ubuntu. You see, Ubuntu is a special version of Linux. Ubuntu is Linux for human beings. That's their tag line, in fact, and it needs some explanation.

[...]

If you switch to Ubuntu you're still gonna have to learn stuff. That's just the way computers are. But Ubuntu also has that magical "Windows XP factor" - it's as functional as you need it to be, yet is still accessible. It 'just works' too - there's usually no need to install drivers, or add-on software. You install, and go. Everything comes together very nicely.

I'd argue that Ubuntu is unique amongst version of Linux in this regard (oh boy, am I gonna get into trouble for saying that - should you stumble upon my beaten corpse, tell Laura I loved her).

I don't even think of Ubuntu as a version of Linux. I put it in a category of its own, and I'm not alone - there's an increasingly common consensus amongst the internet digerati is that there are four operating system choices: Windows, Mac OS X, Ubuntu, and 'other Linux'.

In short, there's never been a better time to give Ubuntu a try. [...]

The whole article is worth reading if you are thinking of making the switch to Linux.

I've tried Ubuntu. I really like the way they configure the desktop. But I have found some configuration is needed for multimedia, etc. Not impossible or terribly difficult, but it could still be a struggle for some people.

My favorite Linux at moment is Linux Mint. It's based on Ubuntu, but I find that it's a bit more polished, and more ready to use right away, without as much tweaking as regular Ubuntu needs. Also, the way Mint configures it's Gnome desktop, is a little more similar to windows XP than regular Ubuntu. XP users would probably find it a little more comfortable.




A few months ago, Andy was having major problems with XP on his laptop. I put Linux Mint 5 on his computer, so he could dual-boot and use Mint, until he got his XP problems sorted out. Well, he's given up on XP on the laptop. He can do everything he needs to do on the laptop with Mint, and he says it even does some things faster. He likes Mint a lot.

Recently he's had problems with XP on his Desktop too. I put a dual-boot on that as well with Linux Mint. Now he says he's not interested in XP anymore.

The interesting thing about this is, Andy isn't a Linux geek or anything; he just wants to use the computer to get things done. He's found Linux Mint to be a pretty easy transition. Even though I offered Linux as a temporary backup, he's come to prefer it as the path of least resistance.

He does have a few windows programs that he wants to use occasionally, like video editing software and a few games, so I'm considering setting up XP to run on Linux for him, via VirtualBox software.

If you like XP, yet are finding it increasingly hard to maintain, but aren't interested in migrating to Vista or Windows 7, you should definitely check out Linux, particularly Ubuntu or one of it's popular variants like LinuxMint. I think you might be pleasantly surprised.



     

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Firefox 3 security alert, patch needed

A security glitch has been found, that apparently threatens every Firefox 3 user, regardless of platform. I learned about it here:

Firefox Looking To Lose The Flab - And The Flaw
Memory leaks and code exploits are a fact of life for both browser developers and their users — regardless of the specific browser in question. For the developers at Mozilla, both issues have been on their minds this week, as browser bugs of both sorts have been all over the news.

[...]

Security researchers published code on Wednesday that reportedly would allow an attacker to load unauthorized software on a target's computer simply by having the target view a specially-coded XML file. According to reports, Mozilla developers were blindsided by the bug and immediately raced to find a patch, a task they'd completed by this morning, adding it to next-week's Firefox 3.0.8 release. Because of the exploit, that release is now considered a "high-priority fire-drill security update" for all users.


Yikes. More about it here:

Firefox fix due next week after attack is published
[...] Mozilla Corp. developers have already worked out a fix for the vulnerability. It's slated to ship in the upcoming 3.0.8 release of the browser, which developers are now characterizing as a "high-priority fire-drill security update," thanks to the attack code. That update is expected sometime early next week.

"We ... consider this a critical issue," said Lucas Adamski, director of security engineering at Mozilla, in an e-mail.

The bug affects Firefox on all operating systems, including Mac OS and Linux, according to Mozilla developer notes on the issue.

By tricking a victim into viewing a maliciously coded XML file, an attacker could use this bug to install unauthorized software on a victim's system. This kind of Web-based malware, called a drive-by download, has become increasingly popular in recent years. [...]

If you are using Firefox 3, this would be an update to watch for.

     

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blue Dog Democrats poised to make Trouble?



House Democrats Slash More Than $100B From Obama's Plan
House budget leaders have sliced more than $100 billion from President Obama's spending plan, and today they unveiled a $3.45 trillion budget blueprint for the fiscal year that begins in October.

Much of the difference comes from a decision by House leaders to jettison Obama's plan to seek more cash for the Treasury Department's financial-sector bailout, a decision that would reduce the projected deficit but not prevent the administration from requesting the money.

The result is a spending plan that would drive the annual deficit to $1.2 trillion next year, compared with $1.4 trillion under Obama's request. Over the next five years, the deficit would fall to just under $600 billion, requiring the nation to borrow $3.9 trillion, compared with $4.4 trillion under Obama's plan.

Like a competing proposal unveiled in the Senate, the House plan would permit lawmakers to pursue Obama's priorities on health care, education and energy only if those initiatives do not increase the deficit. Unlike the Senate, the House is proposing to use a procedural shortcut to push Obama's health-care and education proposals through the Senate without Republican votes. [...]

There are other adjustment's being attempted to the President's budget, too. You can read the rest for the details. I call 100 billion a good start, but it mustn't stop there. More has to be done to bring down the deficit. Not doing that was the mistake of the prior administration, and correcting it should be a priority in the present one.

Also see: Those damn Blue Dog Democrats
     

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where a true bi-partisan approach could help

I think it's given that, since we have a Democrat controlled government, they are going to spend a lot of money. I've resigned myself to that; it's unalterable at this point. If it were done wisely, it might even do some good. But I wish I was not seeing numbers that are so large they belong in Astronomy textbooks, instead of our government budget.

There was an interview recently with Republican Judd Gregg, who made what I thought were some very important observations, demonstrating ways that real bipartisanship could work if given a chance:

Bankrupt Nation?
[...] VAN SUSTEREN: If someone doesn't buy our debt, if a foreign country is unwilling to buy our debt, and we have exploding amount of deficit, we print more money, right? Is that how it's done?

GREGG: We buy our own debt.

VAN SUSTEREN: We buy our own debt, and then essentially, inflation gets very high, so that a loaf of bread is very expensive. Is that in theory how -- is that how we (INAUDIBLE)

GREGG: In a worst-case scenario, that's what would happen. You basically what's known as monetarize your own debt, where you come in and the Federal Reserve prints money in order to buy up our debt, and that creates inflation.

[...]

VAN SUSTEREN: So right now, you support the administration's effort to restimulate -- to sort of stimulate the economy and -- with a stimulus bill of some sort...

GREGG: I didn't support the stimulus.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, not -- maybe not with the package inside in, but the whole concept that we need to stimulate the economy now because we're in a recession -- is there anything different that you would do right now?

GREGG: Absolutely. Right now, I would -- if I'd sent this budget up here, I would have put in instructions to bring under control the rate of growth of spending in the out years. What they've done is they've taken spending as a percent of gross national product up to 23 percent. Historically, the last 40 years, it's been 20 percent of GDP. That 3 percent is a huge amount of money on an economy our size. We've got to get it back down to 21, 22 percent, at the most. And the way you do that is you limit the rate of growth of entitlement spending.

VAN SUSTEREN: And is that something we do next budget? I mean, it can be...

GREGG: No, we should do it right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do it right now. If we don't do it right now, and it doesn't look like we're going to do it right now, what's the practical effect on us?

GREGG: Well, in the short...

VAN SUSTEREN: And by us, I mean the American people, you know...

GREGG: In the short term, we'll survive this, but in the long term, we're going to end up with debt accelerating at a rate that we can't afford to pay it off in a way that's going to continue [SB: cripple?] our productivity as a nation. Basically, if you triple it -- double the debt in five years and triple it in ten, years, you're basically putting yourself in a position where just supporting that debt, the cost of supporting that debt's going to eat up huge amounts of resources that should otherwise be going to making you more productive.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know of any Democratic U.S. senators that are pushing back on this budget that's being proposed by the president?

GREGG: Well, there are a lot of Senators -- there are a lot of people here in the Senate, a lot of Democratic members who are very concerned about this issue. And there are a number of proposals that are very bipartisan to try to address this issue. For example, Conrad/Gregg, which is a proposal which basically puts in place a process to force us as a government to face up to some of these policy issues and make some tough decisions. That's got very broad bipartisan support. All it needs is a little push from the White House, and we probably could put it across the goal line.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you ever had this discussion with the president?

GREGG: I have. I've had it with the president, as have many of my colleagues. This is not a unique discussion. And the president is -- understands the issue. His staff understands the issue. The problem that they have, I guess, or the concerns that they have is they've got a very big and robust agenda. They intend to expand the size of government significantly, and I think they're not wanting to step back yet and say what's the long-term implications of this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is their sort of agenda for the government independent of the way that they are looking at the economy -- I mean, have they decided that, This is what we want to do with the government, so we're going to -- we're going to go this direction, and we think it's going to help the economy, but that's more important than sort of trying to micromanage the economy right now?

GREGG: Well, obviously, in the short term, they've got to spend a lot of money. I accept that fact. And they've decided to do that, and I support, for example, the initiatives by Secretary Geithner. But at the same time, this is a two-track exercise. In the short term, we may have to spend some money, but in the long term, we have discipline our spending. And they haven't put in place the process for disciplining the spending long term. In fact, they've done just the opposite. Their proposal as they sent it up radically expands the size of government in the area of health care, in the area of student loans, in the area -- in a variety of areas, energy, and in just discretionary spending.

VAN SUSTEREN: Secretary Geithner -- going to go, stay? Should he go? Should he stay?

GREGG: He should stay. And the proposal he came out with out today is a reasonable proposal, and let's hope it works because we need it. [...]

It's interesting that he supports what Geithner is doing, and that he accepts that the Democrats are going to spend a lot of money. Still, he wants to bring the deficit under control. To me, that's the best we can expect from bipartisanship at this point. Damage control. I don't see any other possibilities right now, and Gregg's approach seems realistic and sensible given the circumstances we find ourselves in. Republicans need to work with the Democrat Bluedogs and anyone else who will listen, and try our best to control spending, and bring the deficit down before it causes a currency collapse. Thankfully some people are actually looking forward to where all this is taking us.

It's an interesting interview, hard to take excerpts from, it's worth reading the whole thing.


Related Links:

The Devaluing of American Currency Continues
     

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Devaluing of American Currency Continues

Commentary: Time for another tea party?
[...] as the federal government continues to print money that isn't worth the paper it's written on and as our national debt soars past $11 trillion, a United Nations panel is set to recommend that the world ditch the U.S. dollar as its reserve currency in favor of a shared basket of currencies.

One of the enduring strengths of the dollar has been that it has always been the currency of choice in times of crisis. But that's not the case anymore.
Our ballooning deficits have driven down the value of the dollar so much that the Chinese government recently asked for guarantees from Washington that the Treasury bills they own are safe. [...]

If the dollar is perceived as unreliable, it could lead to global "dumping" of all assets in American currency, further devaluating the dollar.

Fed to pump another $1 trillion into U.S. economy
[...] to the surprise of investors and analysts, the committee said it had decided to purchase an additional $750 billion worth of government-guaranteed mortgage-backed securities on top of the $500 billion that the Fed is already in the process of buying.

In addition, the Fed said it would buy up to $300 billion worth of longer-term Treasury securities over the next six months.

[...]

In effect, the central bank has been lending money to a wider and wider array of borrowers, and it has financed that lending by using its authority to create new money at will.

Since last September, the Fed's lending programs have roughly doubled the size of its balance sheet, to about $1.8 trillion, from $900 billion. The actions announced on Wednesday are likely to expand that to well over $3 trillion over the next year.

Despite a trickle of encouraging data in the last few weeks, Fed officials were clearly still worried and in no mood to cut back on their emergency efforts.

Fed policy makers sharply reduced their economic forecasts in January, predicting that the economy would continue to experience steep contractions for the first half of 2009, that unemployment could approach 9 percent by the end of the year and that there was at least a small risk of a drop in consumer prices like those that Japan experienced for nearly a decade.

The Fed rarely buys long-term government bonds. The last occasion was nearly 50 years ago under different economic circumstances when it tried to reduce long-term interest rates while allowing short term rates to rise. [...]

So we are creating this massive debt for ourselves, which is also devaluating the dollar internationally, which also weakens it at home. We have to pay interest on this debt, which keeps growing. What happens when interest rates go up, the interest on our debt it compounded, nations globally begin dumping our currency, and we can't borrow any more? And that causes a massive run on our banks, requiring the Fed to print up even more money, in order to comply with the FDIC? You might as well ask, What would a U.S. currency collapse look like?
     

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Why be bi-partisan when you can just PUSH?

Is anyone still holding their breath, waiting for the bipartisan approach Obama promised during his campaign? Neal Boortz explains why it's not likely to ever happen:

HOW OBAMA GETS THINGS DONE
Does Barack Obama really think that he can push all of his dreams and schemes through Congress? The answer is yes. And when it comes to government healthcare, global warming initiatives and increasing taxes, he wants to make sure that there is no way the Republicans can stop him. How is he going to do this? By including these policy provisions in the annual budget. Then they can use a parliamentary procedure called reconciliation. Basically what that means is that the Democrats wouldn't have to worry about gaining Republican support in the Senate .. because reconciliation reduces the number of votes needed to pass legislation to a simple majority (which the Democrats clearly have in the Senate). It also limits debate to no more than 20 hours and imposes restrictions on amendments. So we are talking about less than 20 hours on the floor of the Congress would be devoted to such grandiose plans as government healthcare and cap and trade schemes.

So when the Democrats "Reform Immigration" this summer, the Republicans won't have any meaningful say in it; it will be a totally Democrat bill. The Dems will grant citizenship to 12 million illegal aliens who will vote Democrat, and the Republican Party can kiss it's ass goodbye. They will never win another election, unless they change drastically from what they are now.

To all the people who wouldn't vote for McCain because he wasn't "conservative enough"; let me know how that works out for you. You wanted it all your way or nothing, and now you get nothing. Unfortunately, so does the rest of the Republican party... what's left of it.

I'm seeing all sorts of crap happening that was not only completely predictable, but avoidable too. It looks like the next four years is going to be one big "I Told You So".


Related Links:

Washington really is broken. See how it "runs"

Has "Atlas Shrugged" become our reality?

Obama, the 1930's, and Excise Taxes
     

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A really, truly, SMALL but full featured PC

I think I want one! This has to be one of the best small Nettops I've seen:



Smallest full-featured Linux PC ever?
CompuLab is readying a full-featured Ubuntu Linux PC that draws six Watts and costs $245-to-$400. The Fit-PC2 packs a 1.1GHz or 1.6GHz Atom processor, 160GB hard drive (or SSD), and DVI/HDMI video up to 1920x1080 into a passively cooled case smaller than three CD cases.

Measuring 4 x 4.5 x 1.0 inches, the Fit-PC2 would be dwarfed by a stack of three CD jewel-cases, which would measure about 5.5 x 5 x 1.25. The Fit-PC2 is touted for its innovative, ruggedized die-cast aluminum case. There are no venting holes, but the fanless device is said to be designed so that the case itself dissipates heat.

[...]

The Fit-PC2 is offered in 1.1GHz "Value" and 1.6GHz "Performance" models. Besides the faster chip, the Performance model adds built-in WiFi. Both models offer 1GB DDR2, as well as a microSD slot for expansion. A 2.5-inch (normal laptop-sized) 160GB SATA hard disk drive is standard, with an optional SSD available. A gigabit Ethernet port and six USB ports offer considerable expansion possibilities.



Specifications for the Fit-PC2 Linux Value and Performance models include:

* Processor -- Intel Atom Z530 1.6GHz (Performance); Intel Atom Z510 1.1GHz (Value); both with Intel US15W SCH
* Memory -- 1GB DDR2
* Flash expansion – miniSD socket
* Display -- supports DVI output up to 1920x1080 via HDMI connector
* Storage -- 160GB SATA 2.5-inch HDD; optional SSD
* Networking -- gigabit Ethernet port
* WiFi -- 802.11b/g (Performance model only)
* USB -- 6 USB ports
* Audio -- "high definition 2.0" audio; line-out; line-in; mic
* Other features -- IR receiver; fanless; aluminum case
* Power -- 12V power supply; 6W typical consumption; up to 8W under load; under 1 Watt standby
* Operating temperature -- 32 to 113 deg. F (0 to 45 deg. C) with HDD; 32 to 158 deg. F (0 to 70 deg. C) without
* Dimensions -- 4 x 4.5 x 1.0 inches (101 x 115 x 27 mm)
* Weight -- 13 oz (370 gr) including HDD
* Operating system -- Ubuntu Linux 8.04 (Windows XP and diskless, zero-OS versions also available) [...]

It's made by a manufacturer in Haifa, Israel. Read the whole article for more details. There will be several configurations to choose from, even one offering Windows XP, all at reasonable prices:

[...] The Fit-PC2 is shipping later this month, says CompuLab. The PC is offered initially in the following configurations:

* 1.1GHz Z510, no OS, no drive -- $245
* 1.1GHz Z510, with Ubuntu 8.04 on 2.5-inch 160GB SATA drive -- $300
* 1.6GHz Z530, with Ubuntu 8.04 on 2.5-inch 160GB SATA drive -- $360
* 1.6GHz Z530, with Windows XP on 2.5-inch 160GB SATA drive -- $400
[...]

I call that reasonable, for the small size, rugged portability and feature set. It's a lot in a small package.


Related Links:

Compulab's website

fit-PC2 Wiki

World's greenest PC?
     

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Can the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Age Demographics foretell Economic Depression?

What do the DJIA and the demographics of people between the age of 45 and 54, and a financial depression all have in common? Quite a bit, according to Daniel A. Arnold, author of:

The Great Bust Ahead: The Greatest Depression in American and UK History is Just Several Short Years Away.
This is your Concise Reference Guide to Understanding Why and How Best to Survive It (Paperback)
Product Description
The Great Bust Ahead is a concise, straight to the point short book laying out in stark terms the case for a coming depression of historically unprecedented magnitude. It will be worse than the 1930s, beginning nominally in 2012, but perhaps as early as 2009-2010 and lasting up to thirteen years.

Centered on hard fact demographics, the book boldly claims that the data presented are so irrefutable, that the outcome predicted by the book is equally as irrefutable. The compelling proof presented accurately accounts for the detailed trend of the economy from 1920 to today (something never before accomplished), and projects out to 2030.

The book is very easy to read and understand, and requires no prior knowledge of economics. Down to earth things the average person can do to prepare for what is coming are covered. A summary of the catastrophic domestic social and international consequences is offered.

January 2009 Update:

1. First, read the 2007 Update below.

2. 2008 was the victim of a self inflicted sub-prime financial crisis. This has nothing to do with the demographics based massive depression that is yet to come, as described in the book. The sub-prime consequences are however very similar though mild so far compared to what is coming our way. The book clearly spelled out that along the way unpredictable short-term (1 to 3 years) disruptive events could happen. The sub-prime crisis is just that. It should be regarded as the warmer upper or hors d'oeuvre for the big one that is now rapidly closing in on us all.

3. The great unknown at this point is whether the sub-prime based crisis will drag on beyond 2009 and then blend into the demographics based massive decline which, per the book, could begin as early as 2009-10. Being short-term by definition, this period is totally unpredictable.

4. There is the strong possibility that we will see an interim recovery manifested as a last hurrah rally in 2009 of perhaps 30% on the Dow after a new low of around 7,000. However, this is very speculative. The only historical certainty is that in the long-term the Dow always returns to the demographic. This lends some credence to such a rally as the immutable demographic, as you can see from the chart, remains in a very strong upswing as it moves toward its 2012 peak before crashing. Also waiting in the wings ready to surge back into the markets are trillions of dollars earning very little in money market funds.

October 2007 Update: In 2002 when this book was published, in addition to the massive depression beginning around the end of the decade, it forecast:

1. The economy, as reflected by the DJIA, would resume its upwards march in late 2002 or 2003. This is exactly what happened.

2. The DJIA would have a snapback to 13,000 to 14,000 and the FTSE to 6,000 to 7,000 by 2004, but delayed possibly by wars/politics/terrorism/scandals. This is exactly what has happened. Although the full snapback has been delayed for the reasons described, the DJIA has now closed over 14,100 and the FTSE over 6,700.

3. The DJIA returns from 2003 to 2012 would average a historically long-term normal of 7% to 8%. So far, with the delayed full snapback for the reasons described, DJIA actual returns have averaged a more modest 5.8%, as would be expected.

4. Interest rates would increase from 2003 onwards. This is exactly what has happened.

From the Publisher
If there ever was a book that should be read by the entire adult population, this is it. The events described in The Great Bust Ahead will be the greatest story of the first quarter of the twenty-first century, if not the century. All of our lives are going to be dramatically affected beginning in just a few years from now.

The depression of epic proportions that is predicted has THIRTY MILLION unemployed and stock market losses of over eighteen TRILLION dollars. The book leaves you with the conviction that for the first time you understand what the economy is all about. Everything presented in the book is so factual, so unchallengeable, it is hard to know what to say other than "go read it" and then start preparing as best you can.

Well, I've had this book for a while, and last night I read the whole thing. It only took an hour and a half to read, because it's only 64 pages long, and printed in large type.

I tend to regard most of these kinds of books with a lot of skepticism. I find reading the customer comments section for such books very helpful. Often, people who have read the book already can give you a very good idea of whether or not the book is even worth bothering with. Some very sharp minds often tear these books to shreds, exposing their bias, bad research and inaccuracies, saving you the time and trouble. But this book got a higher approval rating than similar books; the comments were intriguing, and since it only cost $8.95, I decided to give it a try.

The comments on this book were varied and interesting, and even most of the author's critics didn't completely disagree with the his contention that there is a relationship between the DJIA and the most productive age demographic. The thing they most argued with were about some of the conclusions that Arnold formed based on this data.

I would also question some of those conclusions, for the same reasons others have mentioned in the comments. But the Demographic data is fascinating, and I've yet to see a really effective rebuttal to it.

It was easy to read and follow Arnold's explanation of the data, and his premise takes into account a lot of variables such as immigration, wars, etc. He also shows how there are a number of short term factors that can cause the DJIA to waver temporarily from the demographic, but it always returns to the demographic.

Fascinating stuff, but what it all means for our future financial planning isn't so clear, as the conclusions are open to interpretation, and influenced by short term variables that we can't predict. For instance, Arnold recommends putting your money in U.S. Federal bonds. But with the huge deficit spending we are experiencing now, how safe are those going to be?

He has some interesting ideas about real estate and some other options, but it's late in the game now. The book was written in 2002, and if he's right we may already be on the brink.

The author also has a website, at TheGreatBustAhead.com.


Related Links:

Global Banking Crisis? Leading to...?

An Economic 9/11? A Depression? Trends...

What would a U.S. currency collapse look like?
     

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Democrat Gamble makes Republicans Scramble

Harry Reid has criticized Republican's for not being bipartisan enough, claiming that they want President Obama to fail. But how can they be "bipartisan", if by definition it means jumping off a cliff with the Democrats? Is not agreeing to mutual suicide really "wanting Obama to fail"?


Ironically, I think if the Democrats would have worked on a truly bi-partisan approach to solving the crisis, they could have, with Republican help, insured Obama's success for improving the economy and creating jobs. Instead, they are taking a terrible gamble that seems suicidal to many of us.

This article in the San Francisco Chronicle attempts to make a very positive pitch for Obama's budget and the Democrat's agenda. But even with all the gushing and praise, it acknowledges many of the risks being taken:

Obama taking big political risk with budget
[...] After two years of protecting her conservative Blue Dog Democrats by signing off on farm subsidies and avoiding immigration votes, Pelosi has signaled a leftward shift, warmly embracing the Obama budget as the culmination of a vision she has fought years to achieve. "We are very excited, I guess is the word," Pelosi told liberal media representatives last week. "Now we have a president who shares our values and has the right priorities."

Like former President Reagan, who inherited an economic calamity from a deeply unpopular predecessor, Obama is using the crisis to change government's role in the economy. "We are at an extraordinary moment that is full of peril but full of possibility," Obama told PBS' Jim Lehrer, "and I think that's the time you want to be president."

If the polls are accurate, the economic meltdown has altered public attitudes about government, be it the appetite for health care reform, regulation of banks or higher taxes on the wealthy.

"What you've got is a context that makes a very ambitious budget strategy possible in a way that wouldn't be possible in times we would call normal," said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas. "This is a rare moment." [...]

I read the whole thing. I can follow the logic of the arguments being put forth in favor of what's being done. Yet I can't see that it's going to work, because it's the same flawed logic that got us into this mess. Even the article warns there are a number of pitfalls that could cause it to fail:

[...] Historically, a president's first year is almost always his most productive. "If you can't do it in your first term with your first budget, you almost never get a chance to do it later," said Stan Collender, a veteran budget expert now with Qorvis Communications, a Washington public relations firm. And when a new president comes from a different party than his predecessor, big changes are expected. [...]

President Obama's $3.6 trillion spending and tax plan is the most ambitious effort to shift the federal government's role in the economy since former President Ronald Reagan's in 1981. But instead of rolling back government, Obama advocates spending in three key areas, each dependent on the others. If Congress declines to raise taxes on carbon emissions, for example, money for the middle-class tax credit vanishes, forcing the deficit even higher. [...]

If Obama would only cut taxes to create jobs and increase investment, he would increase the tax revenue from new and expanding businesses, which could fund many of his programs. A true bi-partisan compromise could have achieved that. The problem is, in the name of "fairness", he's instead punishing business with higher taxes, causing investors to sit on their money, shrinking the tax payer base, and borrowing trillions to pay for the Democrat's massive budget agenda. It's growing a bubble that's bound to burst.

Debt is the problem, not the solution. Many Republican's turned against George Bush and the Republican Party for continuing to spend money we don't have, increasing our debt massively and weakening the dollar. And now ironically, Obama is compounding that problem.

If it works I'll eat these words, but I honestly don't see how it can. Jimmy Carter threw endless money at problems, with very bad consequences. It's looking more and more like Barack Obama intends to do the same.

This Administration is still new, and they could conceivably learn from their mistakes. Carter didn't learn from his mistakes, and had one term. Will Obama?


Related Links:

More than a bad day: Worries grow that Barack Obama & Co. have a competence problem

Is Obama taking on too much at once, at economy's expense?

President Obama: a "Leader" or a "Figurehead"?

Does Obama Know What He Is Doing?

HANSON: Maxing out a crisis card
     

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

WikiHow: Making Koeksisters, step by step

We were just talking about this the other day, when I noticed this sample post from WikiHow on my iGoogle page yesterday morning:

How to Make Koeksisters

It gives the recipe ingredients:

For the koeksisters:

* 1½ to 3 cups (187-375g) all-purpose flour
* 1 cup (145g) brown sugar
* 1½ tsp (7g) baking powder
* 2 tsp (4.5g) ground cinnamon
* 1 tsp (2g) ground cloves
* 1 tsp (2g) ground nutmeg
* ½ tsp (1g) allspice
* ½ cup (1 stick) butter
* 4 eggs
* vegetable oil for frying

For the syrup:

* 1½ pounds (680g) granulated sugar
* 1 pint (.5L) water
* ½ tbsp (3.5g) cinnamon

But follow the link to get step by step instructions, with photos. There is also a video at the end.
     

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

President Obama: a "Leader" or a "Figurehead"?


It might be too early to say what kind of Leader Barack Obama will be, but if we were to judge by his performance thus far, I and many others would say it's lacking. Some people have maintained that Obama was never meant to be more than a figurehead for the Democrat Party; the Party Leadership, Pelosi, Reid, etc, will be doing the "Leading", while Obama holds press conferences and summits, and generally continues to do carefully planned campaign style appearances with his teleprompter. How much truth could there be to that? What kind of president have we elected? Michael J. Bernard asks these questions and more:

The Ploy of Inaction
Is President Obama Lazy or is Inaction a Calculated Political Move?
[...] Some observers, however, have begun to take notice of President Obama's lack of leadership in a lot of the moves being made by his Administration and party in congress. As Jennifer Rubin concludes, "Well, it's becoming obvious he's not really much of a manager, decider, legislation-craftsman, or supervisor. His vetting process is in shambles and key Treasury slots are still vacant. His Treasury Secretary is a classic under-performer and Obama encourages that tendency by talking about everything other than our immediate recovery needs. He lets Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid do the legislating — and they've come up with an embarrassing stimulus and an omnibus spending-bill even Democrats aren't swallowing. What does he like to do? Summits. These are in essence campaign events — faux town-halls where nary a discouraging word is heard and no real work is done. And he loves those campaign rallies around the country. So if the report is accurate that others are crafting his political strategy (just like the Pelosi-Reid machine is drafting his legislation), it should should come as no surprise. George W. Bush was lambasted for poor management skills and excessive delegation. But that was nothing — Obama has delegated the entire task of governing. He will keep the campaigning for himself."

Have we elected a figurehead President who is more enthralled with the idea of being President then actually doing the work of being President? That may suit America better given that the election cycle had all the substance of a high-school popularity contest.

While Obama has yet to spend a weekend in the White House, and jets all over America to do such menial tasks as signing legislation (at a clip of $67,000 an hour on the taxpayer's tab), some have been having time to further analyze his leadership style. [...]

The article is full of links to other articles to back up what is being said as it goes on further to examine Obama's exaggerated career accomplishments and resume distortions, and what some former co-workers have to say about him.

I can't say that I find any of it particularly surprising. My biggest concern is that Obama and the Democrat Party generally want to extend the current crisis, not fix it. They keep talking about the crisis as an "opportunity". I hear some Democrats who keep repeating the mantra, "the death of capitalism". Many Leftists in the Democrat party have for years been talking about making our current economic and political system "unworkable", so they can replace it with something else. Is that what we are seeing here? Deliberate sabotage?

The truth is, over the next four years, we are going to see what kind of leader our president is. For better or for worse.
     

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Robots, War, and Unintended Consequences

The robot seen in the photo on the left is iRobot's PackBot with RedOwl Sniper Detection Kit.

Robots are already being used far more than most people realize, especially in the military, which is perhaps the fastest growing area of their development and advancement. The variety of their uses and their abilities are growing so fast, in fact, that we are not able to foresee all the effects this will have, in military and non-military uses.

Not only are they not science fiction anymore, but their increasing use is going to have a growing impact not only on the way we wage war and what that means, and in other areas as well that we haven't even begun to think about.

The following is part of an interview with an author of a new book on this fascinating subject:

Q&A: The robot wars have arrived

[...] P.W. Singer, senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, went behind the scenes of the robotics world to write "Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century."

Singer took time from his book tour to talk with CNET about the start of a revolution tech insiders predicted, but so many others missed.


Q: Your book is purposely not the typical think tank book. It's filled with just as many humorous anecdotes about people's personal lives and pop culture as it is with statistics, technology, and history. You say you did this because robotic development has been greatly influenced by the human imagination?
Singer: Look, to write on robots in my field is a risky thing. Robots were seen as this thing of science fiction even though they're not. So I decided to double down, you know? If I was going to risk it in one way, why not in another way? It's my own insurgency on the boring, staid way people talk about this incredibly important thing, which is war. Most of the books on war and its dynamics--to be blunt--are, oddly enough, boring. And it means the public doesn't actually have an understanding of the dynamics as they should.

It seems like we're just at the beginning here. You quote Bill Gates comparing robots now to what computers were in the eighties.
Singer: Yes, the military is a primary buyer right now and it's using them (robots) for a limited set of applications. And yes, in each area we prove they can be utilized you'll see a massive expansion. That's all correct, but then I think it's even beyond what he was saying. No one sitting back with a computer in 1980 said, "Oh, yes, these things are going to have a ripple effect on our society and politics such that there's going to be a political debate about privacy in an online world, and mothers in Peoria are going to be concerned about child predators on this thing called Facebook." It'll be the same way with the impact on war and in robotics; a ripple effect in areas we're not even aware of yet.

Right now, rudimentary as they are, we have autonomous and remote-controlled robots while most of the people we're fighting don't. What's that doing to our image?
Singer: The leading newspaper editor in Lebanon described--and he's actually describing this as there is a drone above him at the time--that these things show you're afraid, you're not man enough to fight us face-to-face, it shows your cowardice, all we have to do to defeat you is just kill a few of your soldiers.

It's playing like cowardice?
Singer: Yeah, it's like every revolution. You know, when gunpowder is first used people think that's cowardly. Then they figure it out and it has all sorts of other ripple effects. [...]

Read the whole thing to find out more about how this is evolving, and some of the other areas of life it's going to spill over into, and some of the dilemmas it's going to create. It's not a long article, but it touches on a lot of things that are quickly moving forward in ways that will change our world.

You can read more about military robots in particular here:

Another tour of duty for iRobot
     

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Animal Odd Couple, Tara and Bella



I got this in my email, it made me teary.
     

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Harsh Truth About California. And Our Nation?

Accounting for California’s Suicide: A weird sort of utopian mindset.

Victor Davis Hanson at National Review describes the healthy and prosperous California of two decades ago, and compares it to the flailing and swiftly deteriorating basket case it has become today. Then he gets to the crux of the reason why:
[...] If we can agree that Californians have somehow squandered a rich natural and inherited wealth, what were the root causes of this collective suicide?

Critics disagree. Some cite expanding but inefficient state government, out-of-control state pensions and oppressive taxes. Or are the chief problems costly prisons and astronomical rates of incarceration, illegal immigration, unchecked welfare, and excessive regulation and environmental restrictions?

All these explanations may be valid. But less discussed is the underlying culprit: a weird sort of utopian mindset. Perhaps because have-it-all Californians live in such a rich natural landscape and inherited so much from their ancestors, they have convinced themselves that perpetual bounty is now their birthright — not something that can be lost in a generation of complacency.

Californians count on the wealth of farming but would prefer their rivers to remain wild rather than tapped. They like tasteful redwood decks but demand someone else fell their trees for the wood. Californians drive imported SUVs but would rather that you drill for oil off your shores rather than they off theirs. They pride themselves on their liberal welfare programs, but drive out with confiscatory taxes the few left to pay for them.

Californians expect cheap imported labor to tend their lawns and clean their houses, but are incensed at sky-high welfare and entitlement costs that accompany illegal immigration. Lock ’em up, they say — but the state is bankrupted by new prisons, constant inmate lawsuits, and unionized employees.

In short, after Californians sue, restrict, mandate, obstruct, and lecture, they also get angry that there is suddenly not enough food, fuel, water, and money to act like the gods that they think they have become.

This is spot-on in so many ways. When I moved to San Francisco in 1981, California was the strong and prosperous state Hanson describes at the beginning of his article. Over the twenty four years I lived their, I witnessed the deterioration he speaks of in the middle of his article.

One of the reasons I had moved to California was to further my education. I had gone to a very expensive college in Boston for a year, and was extremely disappointed in the quality of the education. California colleges and universities were supposed to be good, and less expensive.

I enrolled in SF city college a couple of times, but always ended giving up on it. The quality of the education was inferior. At best I felt it was a dumb-downed grade factory for functional illiterates; at worst, a politically correct brainwashing camp. I couldn't bear it.

I could earn such fabulous sums of money going to work at jobs most people didn't want to do, that school seemed like a waste of time. Bothering to show up for work and speaking English were job skills that served me well, I didn't need the brainwashing, thank you.

But unfortunately, the brainwashing had an effect on much of the population, and the "good life" that people had to work for in the past, suddenly began to be talked about as a "right" that everyone was entitled to, rather than a goal to work towards. I watched California become a land of spoiled people spoiling a once prosperous and healthy state. Hanson observes:

[...] Biannual state proposition initiatives, often put on the ballot by narrow special interests, allowed voters to vote for additional entitlements and benefits without providing the money to pay for them. Yet Californians are not an informed electorate, as the state’s mediocre public high schools experience 30 percent dropout rates. [...]

California lost the capacity to maintain that prosperous and healthy state, by killing the heart of the engine that drove it. And the "Utopia" mindset is the dagger that was used to do it.

San Francisco is full of people who "live for today"; they are mostly renters, and they spend their money on fancy cloths, cars, electronic gadgets, concerts, movies, vacations, restaurants, etc. They lavish all their money on themselves, or even worse, live on extended credit, so they can "live the good life" to the maximum, while simultaneously complaining about people who have more than they do. People like Pat, Andy and me, who worked hard and saved money, bought a house and built up a business. They would whine that "it's not fair" that we have what they don't.

We sacrificed, we did without all the above luxuries, so we could attain the things we wanted. They could do the same too, if they wanted. But if you were "rude" enough to point that out to them, they would start screaming at you, "What are you, some kind of REPUBLICAN?".

Those are the same people Hanson describes in his article. People who feel they are entitled to that which they did not earn. People who live on credit. People who have voted for entitlements and benefits without providing the money to pay for them.

Is it any wonder that people like us, who worked and saved, sold up and left? And Hanson points out that educated people with job skills are still leaving California in droves. The state is teetering on financial collapse. But unfortunately, I don't think this problem is limited to California. The mindset that Hanson speaks of is taking root elsewhere, and spreading across the country, like so many California trends do.

Today the Democrat Party is being led by San Francisco (Pelosi) style Democrats. I've posted about what they did to San Francisco, and much of the rest of California as well. I've posted about how the radical "Greens" among the Democrats caused California's energy crisis, which plagues the state to this day, and how Obama and the Washington DC Democrats are adopting a similar plan for our nation, which will likely have similar consequences.

Please read the entire article by Hanson, it's not very long but well worth your time. We have a lot to learn from California. Mostly, not to follow their example of the past two decades. Entitlement utopianism and people living beyond their means on credit ruined California, and now that same mindset is threatening to ruin the rest of our country. And it will, if we don't stop the rot now.

I see the same trend happening here in Oregon, and many other states that are accumulating debt by passing entitlement legislation without financing to support it. If that trend continues unabated, the consequences will likely be devastating.


Related Link:    Daily duh! - debt is the problem not the solution
     

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Pussy on the Porch with Snowflakes



Can you tell that she's thrilled? She looks a bit like a dirty snowflake herself.




The ducks, out on the lawn, consider it as good as rain. It turned into rain later in the day. Fortunately it didn't damage the cherry tree blossoms.



I had to adjust the camera shutter speed to get the snowflakes to show up, but a photo still doesn't capture the beauty in the movement of gently falling snowflakes.

You can see more snow pics on Pat's blog.

     

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Monday Funnies: Country Music Humor

I got a copy of this in my email recently:



I wouldn't say I'm a big country music fan, but my parents liked it, so I was raised on it. As a music genre, it's very open to humor.
     

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Europeans go sour on Obama, even as he strives to make America more like Europe


I feel the cover of the latest National Review is right-on. The Democrats feel the economic crisis is an "opportunity" to replace capitalism with their vision of something else. The San Francisco Democrats are rejoicing, because it's their vision that's leading the Democrat party now. They've maintained that we need to become like Europe, and now Obama and the Democrat majority in congress will deliver that to them.

The actual Europeans, though, aren't all that thrilled. Here is an interesting article by Mark Steyn in this issue of National Review. It starts of with an amusing commentary about the shabby way British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was treated on his official visit to the White House.

I actually don't see THAT as such a big deal, for two reasons. Britain hasn't been such a great ally in recent years; and Brown is disliked at home, even in his own party, and about to become toast anyway. More interesting is what comes later in the article, about Europe generally:

The Great Destabilization
[...] The other week Der Spiegel ran a piece called “Why Obamania Isn’t the Answer,” which might more usefully have been published before the Obamessiah held his big Berlin rally. Written by some bigshot with the German Council on Foreign Relations and illustrated by the old four-color hopey-changey posters all scratched up and worn out, the essay conceded that Europe had embraced Obama as a “European American.” Very true. The president is the most European American ever to sit in the Oval Office. And, because of that, he doesn’t need any actual European Europeans getting in the way — just as, at his big victory-night rally in Chicago, the first megastar president didn’t need any megastar megastars from Hollywood clogging up the joint: Movie stars who wanted to fly in were told by his minders that he didn’t want any other celebrities deflecting attention from him. Same with world leaders. If it’s any consolation to Gordon Brown, he’s just not that into any of you.

What Mr. Brown and the rest of the world want is for America, the engine of the global economy, to pull the rest of them out of the quicksand — which isn’t unreasonable. Even though a big chunk of the subprime/securitization/credit-bubble axis originated in the United States and got exported round the planet, the reality is that almost every one of America’s trading partners will wind up getting far harder hit.

And that was before Obama made clear that for him the economy takes a very distant back seat to the massive expansion of government for which it provides cover. That’s why he’s indifferent to the plummeting Dow. The president has made a strategic calculation that, to advance his plans for socialized health care, “green energy,” and a big-government state, it’s to his advantage for things to get worse. And, if things go from bad to worse in America, overseas they’ll go from worse to total societal collapse. We’ve already seen changes of government in Iceland and Latvia, rioting in Greece and Bulgaria. The great destabilization is starting on the fringes of Europe and working its way to the Continent’s center.

We’re seeing not just the first contraction in the global economy since 1945, but also the first crisis of globalization. This was the system America and the other leading economies encouraged everybody else to grab a piece of. But whatever piece you grabbed — exports in Taiwan, services in Ireland, construction in Spain, oligarchic industrial-scale kleptomania in Russia — it’s all crumbling. Ireland and Italy are nation-state versions of Bank of America and General Motors. In Eastern Europe, the countries way out on the end of the globalization chain can’t take a lot of heat without widespread unrest. [...]

I've written recently about the freaky economics of Europe as their meltdown is unfolding. European governments are bracing for riots and Obama Euphoria has soured quickly, as Europeans realize Obama has no interest in supporting them with things like Missile Defense (even though we ought to be pursuing it for reasons of our own). It's a rich irony; because Obama wants to make our country like theirs (big socialized nanny-state government), we no longer have money to spend on their defenses anymore.

During our 2008 election campaign, the Europeans kept insisting that we MUST elect Obama, and that we wouldn't because we were racist. Now that we've done it, they don't like it. Too freak'n bad. They got what they said they wanted, and now they can kiss our President's ass.

Europe's support of Obama was never sincere. They were projecting their own racism onto us. They assumed we would NOT vote him in, and therefore, they supported him, so they could call us racist when he lost. What a surprise they got. I'd gloat about it more, except that our President is taking us down the same economic path as Europe, with, I fear, the same consequences.

The European Union relies on anti-Americanism as a primary justification for their Union's existence; since the end of the Cold War, they have been positioning themselves as the alternative to American power, and have been fostering anti-American sentiment as a cement to unite the European Union and hold it together. They need the American "Threat". Therefore, their plan is to kick us, no matter what we do. And of course still assume that we'll bail them out whenever they get into trouble.

Now they want us to pull their economic wagon out of the mud for them, but it isn't going to happen, because we're using their economic model and going into the mud with them. I hardly know whether to laugh or cry.


Related Links:

Democrat economics VS the creation of wealth

Is Obama compounding Bush's mistakes?
     

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Friday, March 06, 2009

The Asus EEE pc 1000HA. Is it a Winner?

The Asus EEE netbooks have been out for a while now, and they seem to be very popular. This one with a 10 inch screen and Windows XP caught my eye recently:


ASUS Eee PC 1000HA 10-Inch Netbook (1.6 GHz Intel ATOM N270 Processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, 10 GB Eee Storage, XP Home, 6 Cell Battery) Fine Ebony
Technical Details

* XP-Preloaded with 160G large HDD.

* ASUS Super Hybrid Engine and 6 cell high density battery pack allow for longer battery lifespan of up to 7 hours. Super Hybrid Engine offers a choice of performance and power consumption modes for easy adjustments according to various needs.

* High Speed Connectivity Anywhere with Wi-Fi 802.11b/g. Eee Connect for an easy way to connect two or more users through a remote desktop feature for easy troubleshooting.

* Exclusive 10GB Eee Storage with easy accessibility anywhere online.

* Free 1 YR Warranty (6 month for battery, 30 day ZBD Guaranteed)

Here is a portion of the Amazon.com product description:
[...] Much more compact than a standard-sized notebook and weighing just over 3 pounds, the Eee PC 1000HA is perfect for students toting to school or road warriors packing away to Wi-Fi hotspots. The Eee PC 1000HA also features a 160 GB hard disk drive (HDD), 1 GB of RAM, 1.3-megapixel webcam integrated into the bezel above the LCD, 54g Wi-Fi networking (802.11b/g), Secure Digital memory card slot, multiple USB ports, a VGA output for connecting to a monitor.

It comes preinstalled with the Microsoft Windows XP Home operating system, which offers more experienced users an enhanced and innovative experience that incorporates Windows Live features like Windows Live Messenger for instant messaging and Windows Live Mail for consolidated email accounts on your desktop. Complementing this is Microsoft Works, which equips the user with numerous office applications to work efficiently. [...]

The full description is quite long and detailed, with lots more photos and information. And always of great interest to me, are the reviews by people who own it. 287 reviews so far, and most give it high marks:

Customer Reviews

Very interesting. I've been looking at a lot of netbooks, and this one looks like it could be among the best that's available. For someone who doesn't need a really high powered laptop, and who wants Windows XP instead of Windows Vista, this could be just the thing. Asus is supposed to be a good brand, I've heard, so hopefully it will hold up well with use. Time will tell.
     

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